I’d like to think I’m a realist. I believe that Tom Brokaw is right. There is no privacy left in our society. But I think the reason is not a result of terrorism, or law enforcement. For me, it is something that is more subtle.
Our desire to access the Internet anywhere on any device is driving society to signing up for Internet access everywhere – including the home, the office, wireless and wi-fi hotspots.
For each point of access, an end-user is contractually giving up his or her privacy. The service provider provides a service. A service that essentially allows the end-user to access some remote data or information on a network. In order to facilitate this, the service providers (and in most cases, service providers) need to know the source of the data request, and the destination of the request.
While technophiles have the ability to bounce requests off multiple servers to try and increase the complexity of a request, ultimately, every access, the time, the activity that an end-user performs is recorded somewhere. While this may be an intrusion, it is just like a telephone call. There is a caller and a callee. The infrastructure in the middle connects these participants together, but in order to do that, it must figure out where both parties are, and then bill the parties accordingly.
Those who would prefer that their Internet activities, however legitimate or otherwise, not be recorded, have to essentially build their own private networks.
Ultimately, this issue of privacy and the Internet is not likely to be resolved any time soon.
Complicating this will be the rush to increase the number of surveillance devices deployed, operated by governments worldwide in the interest of national security. This can be a good thing. The technology that is already operational in New York City and many other large urban metropolitan areas around the world (although not yet in Boston), have already foiled a number of attempted attacks on national security worldwide.
Sooner or later, society will need to recognize and perhaps forced to accept the changes in the idea of privacy. Governments cannot continue to provision resources, without being accountable to its citizens. Accountability can only come by way of validation and the ability to observe when exceptions occur.